It's been five months since Kylie Kwong closed Billy Kwong, her much-loved Sydney restaurant of 19 years. And now the chef can finally reveal where she'll go next.
In 2020, Kwong will open a new, as yet unnamed eatery in South Eveleigh (formerly known as Australian Technology Park). There, her role runs deeper than chef-restaurateur – she's also the South Eveleigh ambassador.
"When I came down to South Eveleigh, I just immediately fell in love with the place," she says. "It has this incredibly long and continuing history with the Indigenous community and this deep cultural legacy." It's the land of the Gadigal, and home to Australia's first Indigenous rooftop farm by start-up company Yerrabingin. Clarence Slockee, who runs Yerrabingin with Christian Hampson, is a long-time friend of Kwong's.
"Clarence made my Indigenous clapping sticks for Billy Kwong," she says. At her Potts Point restaurant, the chef would strike the instruments when a dish was ready to be served. Down at South Eveleigh, Slockee taught Kwong how to make her own version from the fallen branches of lemon-scented gum trees that were found nearby.
They'll be a fixture at her new restaurant, as will her love of native ingredients. It's a culinary passion she'll explore further at Yerrabingin's rooftop, where she can find wild raspberries, native river mint, and karkalla, a succulent that grows as thick as a carpet. And Kwong will have plenty of time to experiment with the 2,000 native plants at Yerrabingin – her restaurant won't be launching until late 2020.
"It's going to be a small, casual daytime venue, but it will still retain the same values as I've always held onto," she says. There's her masterful way of integrating native produce with Cantonese cuisine ("With Clarence and Christian several hundred metres away, I'll be able to go there and hand-pick the plants each day," she says); and then there's her commitment to sustainability – the menu will feature collaborations with Palisa Anderson's Boon Luck Farm (the Chat Thai restauranteur grows 30 types of eggplant at her Byron property) and Josh Niland, the seafood champion who turns fish eyes into crackers.
While the menu is still in its early stages, Kwong has confirmed that savoury pancakes, a fixture of her Carriageworks Farmers Markets stall, will feature. It's a recipe she knows all too well, having served 189,000 pancakes in the stall's seven-year history, though at South Eveleigh they might be topped with Yerrabingin's warrigal greens, sea parsley or samphire, holy basil grown hours away at Anderson's farm, and sustainable fish selected by Niland.
Given her current roles at Carriageworks (curating food events, hosting its MAD Monday food talks) nearby at North Eveleigh, it seems like she is well-prepared to take to her new role at neighbouring South Eveleigh, where she'll be launching a program of community of events early next year. It's a development that she's pretty happy about.
"I've spent 19 years within a restaurant space," she says. "To be able to step beyond the kitchen and the restaurant is absolutely invigorating. And it's where I want to be at this stage of my career."
Kylie Kwong's new eatery is set to open in late 2020 at South Eveleigh, NSW. southeveleigh.mirvac.com.